Create a personalized dialogue with each prospect at every point in the sales process!

This sounds like a pitch for marketing automation. While the result is valuable, it is not a dialogue. Here are some of the characteristics of this “dialogue” marketing has created with automation:

  • Most of the audience response is a click and inferred consumption. In mass it is a valuable indicator but it isn’t a valuable individual response (Scott Brinker discussed this at Insights from the explosion of marketing touchpoints)
  • It is based on well educated guesses about what information someone needs next, not answering a specific question or need.
  • It is designed to replace the conversation that once happened directly between sales and a potential new prospect.

Real conversations need to come back into marketing communications.

One solution is online group discussions. These discussions have more in common with the lunch roundtable conversations at a conference than traditional marketing communications. A subject matter expert and a facilitator keep the conversation moving, but everyone can participate, asking and answering questions.

Why Conversations are Valuable

  • A conversation is naturally audience-focused.
  • Real time discussion highlights the knowledge of the participants and associates that knowledge with specific accessible individuals within your company.
  • Conversations build relationships that let you address needs and deliver additional information (ie content).

How to Enable Conversations

The most common platform I see is Twitter. Tweetchats are in public, allowing conversations to be discovered and followed by anyone using Twitter, however only people comfortable using Twitter are likely to join. I join #B2Bchat most weeks and have met a number of people through the chat.

A more interesting model, in my opinion, is Stanzr (currently in beta). Since it is not tied to Twitter, the potential audience isn’t limited by a platform choice. I have recently participated in chats on Stanzr hosted by Crowdbooster and NetProspex. The platform was an improvement on the Tweetchat model and the hosts were able to lightly brand the chat environment and provide additional information.

Is a Trend Forming?

Just yesterday, SAP announced they will be hosting an enterprise mobility chat using the hashtag #SAPchat on Twitter. Earlier this month, Forrester launched an Interactive Marketing chat using the hashtag #IMchat. And of course, #AskObama on July 6th briefly put Tweetchats in the national news.

Your Turn
Do online conversations build stronger relationships than relying only on a content-based “dialogue”? If so, have you had good experiences with online chat platforms as a marketer or individual? Share your view in the comments.

Read more: Business Conversations Trump Product Presentations